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ST. LOUIS… It is in the wee hours of Tuesday and I’m in the Gateway City awaiting a Game 7 this evening between the St. Louis Blues and the Dallas Stars that I believe will thrill hockey fans everywhere, especially those of the winning team. I don’t have a team in this duel, but I’ll at least say this; from the moment the old NorthStar’s began competition in the Twin Cities years back until they departed for the Big D, I was as rabid of a fan as you could find in the State of Hockey. I was devastated by their relocation and it still brings up moments of sadness, but then some smiles as well when I consider the happier times the club provided. One of the first and most heated rivalries the old NorthStar’s had was with the Blues. The first four Stanley Cup tourneys the NorthStar’s made it into they played the Blues and had the misfortune of going 1-3 in those series. This didn’t endear the “Note” to me in any way. I have not liked them whatsoever at any time in my voluminous hockey viewing. As I can always cheer for excellence, they have had a few players and a couple of coaches that I have admired over the years, but the team? No. Not happening.
After a couple of years of post-departure pouting, I started following the newly renamed “Stars”
again, although I refused to refer to them by their new moniker. And I kept pulling for them up until the last tie to Minnesota called it a day when Mike Modano ended up in Detroit and subsequently retired. After a freak type of injury with the Wings, the season was kind of a washout for Modo and he called it a day. What an exciting player. As I had also followed the Wild since their inception and have been a Montreal fan since the early sixties, I was back down to two clubs to root for. My emotional link to my old franchise was done and gone. Will I experience some of that old emotion on this night? I’m not going to lie to you, but I will add that since I am going to be in the “den” of the opposition I’ll likely be low key. Under the surface I’m thinking it is going to be internally intense for me. I’ll try to maintain…
THIS SERIES SO far has been pretty exciting. At 3 games apiece now, the Stars won G1 in STL, then dropped G2 before going home and winning G3 and losing G4. They went back to STL and won G5 setting up this past Sundays elimination game which the Blues won in a 4-1, kind of bizarre game. With STL leading 2-1 in the 3rd period the Stars goalie Ben Bishop was hit on the collarbone by a hard rising shot and went down clutching that area, the rebound went to a Blues player and then on a shot from the point with Bishop still writhing on the ice, the Blues scored going up 3-1. The game was halted while Bishop was attended to and when play resumed the Blues scored again 33 seconds later and Bishop was pulled for former wild backup Anton Khudobin. The game was effectively over and the first seven heaven of Round 2 was set.
If the Stars had taken possession of the puck after Bishop was hit, play would have been blown dead. Or, if Bishop had shed his mask on the way down play would have been automatically halted. He didn’t, and it is just another strange playoff occurrence of something physically happening to Bishop in the middle of a very important time within a series. The word is that he will play tonight though, and it will be interesting to see how this goes with him between the pipes. By all accounts “Khu-doby” is a pretty strong backup, but he doesn’t match Bishop’s skill set when he is on top of his game. The Stars will have to have a strong Bishop in goal to get through this tilt. I would have to give the Blues a slight edge in this series so far and that is based on their 5 on 5 play with some strong possession time in the O-zone. In my view they have generated more quality opportunities and their rookie netminder, Jordan Binnington has at the very least been Bishops equal in this series. Who will win tonight? It pains me to say that this game is setting up for STL, however, being at home isn’t always a panacea for NHL teams in the playoffs. I must think though that STL has been the overall stronger club in this series…
ON WEDNESDAY night there will be a second seven heaven courtesy of the Colorado Avalanche win over the San Jose Sharks tonight via a 4-3 OT win. Av’s Captain Gabriel Landeskog scored at 2:32 of the extra frame to send the Pepsi Center fans home in a positive frenzy. In this series I feel as if the Sharks have been the stronger team in total and have upset the Av’s offensive and transition game with some very tight checking. They have given the Av’s very little space to maneuver and it shows. The Av’s have not been able to adjust and have paid the price. I keep waiting for the Av’s to speed up their passing game or move to space in order to combat the Shark checking game, but it hasn’t always happened. This should be an epic G7…
A THIRD G7 was avoided on Monday eve when the Boston Bruins eliminated the Columbus Bluejackets in 6 games in a 3-0 G6 shutout. In this series the Bruins simply generated more high-end scoring chances and made them count. This was also a battle of physical will for a great part of the series and the older, more veteran Bruins won those battles. And in the end, I must give props to Bruin netminder Tuuka Rask who in my book, simply outplayed the CBJ’s Sergei Bobrovsky. After the Bruins went 1-2 in the first three games, they rattled off 3 straight to finish off the Jackets and their season.
CAROLINA will meet the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final and will be well rested after sweeping the NY Isles in a 4 game smackdown of sorts. After sweeping the Penguins in the first round while the Canes endured a very tough 7 gamer with the Capitals, including a G7 2OT thriller, I had reason to believe that the Isles had an advantage here in being the rested club. Not so. The Canes won two one goal games in NY before coming home and adding two 5-2 wins. Who will be the winner here? The fans of course…. PEACE